Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Health experts battle to contain DRC Ebola outbreak

Health workers at an Ebola safety zone in a health centre in Iyonda DRC Health experts battle to contain DRC Ebola outbreak
Anna Jefferson | 05 August, 2018, 19:13

Officials have not yet confirmed the strain of Ebola that has killed 20 people and sickened four more, including two health workers, and it could be the Zaire, Sudan or Bundibugyo strain, WHO's emergency response chief Peter Salama said.

Another 20 people died from unidentified haemorrhagic fevers in the area, mostly in the second half of July.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says the response to the new Ebola virus outbreak in Congo's North Kivu province will be "highly complex" given the armed unrest in the region. The swift vaccinations of more than 3,300 people helped in containing that outbreak.

On July 29, a previous outbreak on the other side of the Central African country was declared over after killing 33 people.

The organization's emergency response chief, Peter Salama, expressed concern about the regional risks this outbreak could pose - given the pattern of its spread and its closeness to worldwide frontiers.

"It would appear that the risk, as we can surmise for DRC, is high".

Congo has dealt with Ebola for decades and this is its tenth outbreak of the virus. Once present in humans, it causes haemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

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The response to this was considered a success despite the deaths, as the use of a vaccine made by Merck helped contain the virus.

The outbreak in northwestern Congo also belonged to the Zaire strain and an experimental vaccine from pharmaceutical company Merck was used to fight its spread.

A World Health Organization team has arrived in the war-torn region to try to contain the spread of the virus.

Salama said the "signal event" in this new outbreak was the death of a 65-year-old woman who had been admitted to the hospital in Mangina.

"I was hit with fear not only about whether my health would be attacked by Ebola, but also how I'm going to feed my family without our Mangina field because all the roads leading to Mangina have been quarantined by the health officials", he said.

"We can't at this stage confirm whether they are all confirmed or probable Ebola cases", he added. The province shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda, with a lot of cross border movement due to brisk trade.

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